Knowledge Engineering


In the traditional approach to systems design, a system analyst, together with the ultimate end-users, or clients, for the project, will complete a functional specification of the system. At that point, the project is essentially in the hands of professional project management and programming staff, because that group possesses the knowledge and skill required to deliver the agreed upon features and functions. In the development of knowledge systems, this is simply not the case. Following the specification of function, a new problem arises. This is because it is not an algorithm that is being developed but knowledge that is being encoded for machine use.

 

The immediate problem is that traditional applications developers do not have sufficient knowledge of the applications area to complete the project from the starting point of a functional specification. This information generally exists in a variety of forms, depending on the application area. In some cases an individual or group of individuals may uniquely possess the relevant knowledge. In other cases, the knowledge may exist in the form of published materials like manuals or textbooks. In still other cases, the knowledge does not presently exist at all, and must be created and developed along with the system itself. This is an extremely difficult circumstance. Further compounding this problem is a critical factor: Regardless of the form in which the knowledge currently exists, it is not in a form that is ready for use by a knowledge system. Someone must decide what knowledge is relevant and desirable for inclusion, acquire the knowledge, and represent it in a form suitable for a knowledge system to apply. In all but trivial applications the task of representing the knowledge requires not only coding individual “chunks” of knowledge, but also organizing and structuring these individual components.

 

Historically, owing to the remoteness and enigmatic quality of artificial intelligence technologies, the person doing the actual systems development and the “expert,” or source of knowledge, were not the same. The availability of tools, in place of enigmatic technologies, has had an impact on reducing this problem. Even if one can imagine the case in which the “expert” whose knowledge is to be modeled is also an “expert” with the use of artificial intelligence development tools, there still remains a sizable problem.

 

In case where knowledge resides with some practitioner or expert, it does not exist explicitly as a series of IF …THEN rules, ready to be encoded. Most practitioners and experts find it difficult to explain explicitly what they are doing while solving problems. They are not cognizant of the underlying rules they are applying. Their expertise has been developed from numerous experiences and involves highly developed pattern recognition skills and heuristics.

 

In the case where the knowledge to be included is contained in text material like manuals, regulations, procedures, and the like, the information is still not in a form ready for inclusion in an expert system. It must be remembered that one of the most often cited advantages of expert systems is that they make explicit the knowledge that is most often implicit and unavailable for review, evaluation, dissemination, and modification. The task of making knowledge both explicit and available for systems application is that of knowledge engineering. Most literature on the development and application of knowledge systems has identified the need for individuals skilled in knowledge engineering as a critical factor to widespread use of technology.

 

Knowledge engineering involves acquiring, representing, and coding knowledge. The representation and coding aspects of systems development have been greatly impacted by these newly available tools. The speed with which prototyping can be accomplished has also helped reduce some of the difficulty in acquiring or refining knowledge. The knowledge engineer now finds it much less costly in time and effort to represent, code, and test early approaches to systems development, providing a more efficient feedback loop. This feedback loop is critical in the development of knowledge systems. The end-user/client for the project is, by nature, going to be much more involved in the systems design process. The “programmer” often is incapable of deciding if the system is behaving properly, owing to a lack of fundamental knowledge about the application area. This is simply not as strong a factor, where the programmer is capable of evaluating the accuracy and efficiency of algorithms. When the product is actionable knowledge rather than algorithms, the ability to evaluate project progress shifts to the end-user/client. This creates the increased emphasis on the feedback loop.

 

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please visit www.asifjmir.com, Line of Sight

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Conflict Management


With the turn of economic wheel conflict has entered into our daily life as an indispensable impedimenta. Whether in domestic, professional or political living and breathing world we are dominated by lacking conflict management skills and hence dragging on with antipathy, bitter feelings and state of war. For creating a fraternal, congenial and harmonious environment we ought to master skills essential for dealing with conflict.

Conflict is a natural disagreement resulting from individuals or groups that differ in attitudes, beliefs, values or needs. It can also originate from past rivalries and personality differences.

The first step in managing conflict is to analyze the nature and type of conflict. To do this, you’ll find it helpful to ask questions.

Collaboration results from a high concern for your group’s own interests, matched with a high concern for the interests of other partners. The outcome is win/win. This strategy is generally used when concerns for others are important. This approach helps build commitment and reduce bad feelings. Some partners may take advantage of the others’ trust and openness. Generally regarded as the best approach for managing conflict, the objective of collaboration is to reach consensus.

Compromise strategy results from a high concern for your group’s own interests along with a moderate concern for the interests of other partners. The outcome is win some/lose some. This strategy is generally used to achieve temporary solutions, to avoid destructive power struggles or when time pressures exist.

Competition strategy results from a high concern for your group’s own interests with less concern for others. The outcome is win/lose. This strategy includes most attempts at bargaining. It is generally used when basic rights are at stake or to set a precedent. It can cause the conflict to escalate and losers may try to retaliate.

Accommodation results from a low concern for your group’s own interests combined with a high concern for the interests of other partners. The outcome is lose/win. This strategy is generally used when the issue is more important to others than to you. It is a goodwill gesture. It is also appropriate when you recognize that you are wrong. The drawbacks are that your own ideas and concerns don’t get attention. You may also lose credibility and future influence.

Avoidance results from a low concern for your group’s own interests coupled with a low concern for the interests of others. The outcome is lose/lose. This strategy is generally used when the issue is trivial or other issues are more pressing. It is also used when confrontation has a high potential for damage or more information is needed.

Several enemies often combine to create contention. The first enemy is the natural need to want to explain the side first. After all, we reason, if they understood our perspective, they would come to the same conclusions we did. The second enemy is ineffectiveness as listeners. Listening is much more than being quiet so we can have our turn. The third enemy is fear. Fear that we will not get our way. Fear of losing something we cherish. Fear we will be made to look foolish. The fourth enemy is the assumption that one of us has to lose if the other is going to win. Differences can only be solved competitively.

Two principles have contributed so much to the productive handling of disagreements that it is difficult to read about the subject in scholarly works without their mention. The first principle: Seek first to understand, then to be understood, was introduced by Steven Covey, in Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. If we encourage others to explain their side first, they will be more apt to listen to ours.

Roger Fisher and William Ury introduced the second communication principle in their seminal work, Getting to Yes. Simply stated, it is that people in disagreement focus on their positions when instead they should be focusing on their needs. By focusing on positions we tend to underscore our disagreements. When we concentrate on needs, we find we have more in common than what we had assumed. Ury and Fisher then went on to say that when we focus on needs we can attempt to satisfy the sum of both our needs and their needs.

The parties to any conflict can also explore a problem-solving approach inspired by an ancient Tibetan Buddhist teaching known as the four karmas. These four karmas follow a developmental sequence that begins with pacifying or calming the situation, enriching positive aspects by bringing in multiple perspectives, magnetizing larger perspectives or additional resources, and finally, if necessary, destroying old patterns and behaviors that no longer serve.

Traditionally the four karmas is a personal practice that allows one to become attuned to the natural energies in a situation, and to transform confusion and aggression into creativity, compassion, and intelligent action.

How can we solve our tough problems without resorting to force? How can we overcome the apartheid syndrome in our homes, workplaces, communities, countries, and even globally? How can we heal our world’s gaping wounds? To answer these questions is simple, but it is not easy. We have to bring together the people who are co-creating the current reality to co-create new realities. We have to shift from downloading and debating to reflective and generative dialogue. We have to choose an open way over a closed way.

It is good to talk about the past. A discussion of past behaviors is essential to analyze patterns of conflict and help conflicting parties to find constructive ways of handling future disagreements. Without understanding the past, it is hard to prepare for the future. At some point, however, the focus of discussion turns to that of future behaviors, rather than past injuries. The sooner the participants can focus on the future, the greater the chances of successful resolution.

My Consultancy–Asif J. Mir – Management Consultant–transforms organizations where people have the freedom to be creative, a place that brings out the best in everybody–an open, fair place where people have a sense that what they do matters. For details please contact www.asifjmir.com, Line of Sight